After a long day’s work, many Americans follow a similar routine. They head home, eat dinner and get comfortable to read, watch TV or otherwise decompress. During that time though, many people are still connected to work on off-hours.
This isn’t just a bad habit — it’s an expectation. Because we’re so connected to our phones and computers, our colleagues and clients expect us to respond to queries whether we’re in the office or relaxing on our couch. But New York City councilman Rafael Espinal Jr. aims to change that for his constituents through a recently proposed bill.
Espinal’s bill would bar businesses with 10 or more staffers from requiring their employees to respond to work-based communication after hours. This ban would cover phone calls, emails and any other form of conversation related to work. Of course, not all industries would have to adhere to these standards: On-call medical professionals and companies with overseas dealings would be able to communicate outside traditional office hours.
If the bill becomes law, it would be the first in America to make a work-life balance part of the law. A similar law has passed in France, and in Germany, employers have been unable to email employees unless it’s urgent since 2013.
The NYC bill would allow employees to file complaints regarding their refusal to work after hours — if proven to be in violation, employers could face fines ranging from $250 to $2,500, plus compensation if an employee has been fired for their lack of communication. The action could also incur a civil penalty they’d have to pay to the city.
What It Could Mean
For starters, the law wouldn’t necessarily stop staff members from communicating after they’ve left the office — it would just give them the option to accept or decline the communication without getting punished for choosing the latter course of action. Again, they’d have the power to file complaints against employers who violated their right to a work-life balance.
It’s too soon to tell if this type of law would stop New Yorkers from taking their work home with them. A 2016 survey by the Workforce Institute at Kronos revealed 63 percent of respondents would continue toiling away after hours even if there was a policy in place to prevent it. People have just become too accustomed to the always-on pace of today’s workplace.
Ultimately, though, this law could be a step in the right direction for American employees, particularly because the work-life balance in this country tends to be so poor. The quality of life for U.S. workers is especially imbalanced in comparison to countries where a leisurely, laid-back working style takes precedence over the nonstop push in U.S. offices.
Boosting Work-Life Balance Now
Until laws like the one proposed in NYC come to pass, it’s up to you to find a happy medium between work and real life. There are plenty of ways to find your balance, including the following:
Make the effort to invest yourself in establishing a work-life balance until American companies are better able to find one. But with laws like the one proposed in NYC, you might not have to make this effort alone for long.
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